The newly appointed NBA commissioner was in town for the first time to cap the two-day celebration honoring Kevin Durant as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
His presence kick-started a party-type atmosphere, and as he strolled to center court and took control of the microphone his message was drowned out by the most deafening “M-V-P” chant heard this season.
But soon after Adam Silver presented the Maurice Podoloff trophy, Durant, in a much shorter acceptance speech, got right down to business.
“It’s time for you guys to be as loud as you can be tonight,” Durant told the sold out crowd inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. “We really need to win this game.”
In what came as close to a must-win situation as you can get short of an elimination game, Durant delivered.
With a game-high 32 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists, Durant helped the Thunder punch a 112-101 victory in Game 2 of its Western Conference semifinal against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night.
The win evened the best-of-7 series at one game apiece as the matchup moves to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4. Had the Thunder dropped Wednesday’s contest, it would have forced OKC to win four of five games, three of them coming at Staples Center, to advance.
With the way Durant set the tone, though, he ensured his team wouldn’t face that scenario.
On his first shot attempt, Durant splashed in a 3-pointer off a feed from Russell Westbrook just 40 seconds into the game. Forty-two seconds after that, Durant drilled a step-back jumper over Clippers forward Matt Barnes. Durant went on to make six of his first seven shots before finishing with 17 first-quarter points.
His hot start was a result of his ability to hit all sorts of shots. He dumped in driving layups, fadeaways and scores in transition.
Durant’s second 3-pointer of the first period, also off a dish from Westbrook, capped an 11-0 run and put the Thunder ahead, 25-18. That lead ballooned to as many as 11 inside the final minute of the opening quarter.